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DID YOU READ

15 observations on the Sundance line-up.

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12042008_manure.jpgThe U.S. and world competition line-ups are here; the premieres and sidebars are here.

Documentary Competition:

1. Sundance often leans toward the documentary-as-journalism/vehicle for activism, and, from the descriptions, there’s again plenty of that this year: Joe Berlinger (going solo!) has “Crude” is “the inside story of the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’ case in the rainforest of Ecuador”; “Dirt! The Movie” is about “how humans are rapidly destroying the last natural resource on earth”; “The Cove” follows “a group of activists led by Ric O’Barry, the man behind Flipper” as they look into environmental horrors in a small cove in Japan.

2. Tom DiCillo, of “Johnny Suede” and “Living in Oblivion,” has made a Doors documentary?!

Dramatic Competition:

3. John Krasinski’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” has the burden/advantage of the recent and terrible death of David Foster Wallace going for it. The description: “When her boyfriend leaves with little explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache by interviewing men about their behavior.” I don’t doubt that Krasinski’s smart, but shaping DFW’s narrative-free monologuey short stories into a highly Sundancey framing story doesn’t sound promising. Incidentally, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” was one of last year’s two high-profile lit adaptations (the other being “Choke”), but it was such a dog that no one’s touched it.

4. I thoroughly enjoyed Lynn Shelton’s bromance-gone-bad comedy “My Effortless Brilliance,” and am looking forward to “Humpday” more than anything else in this line-up.

5. I blame the copy, but “Peter and Vandy” sounds like a sillier version of “5×2.”

6. Cary Joji Fukunaga, of “Sin Nombre,” had one of the better shorts to screen at the New York Film Festival a few years ago, 2004’s “Victoria Para Chino.” That short has one of the better IMDb comments attached to it:

It might have been interesting to see the film without subtitles, so that the Mexicans really have their own identity and you have to really pay attention to them. This can be easily accomplished by the viewer, however, by making your hand flat like the horizon, and then putting your horizon hand over the subtitles. This starts to hurt after a while because even though this film is short, you must keep your hand there for the whole time as the whole thing is basically in Spanish.

World Cinema Documentary Competition:

7. In general sounds a bit more interesting than the main doc competish. Take “Afghan Star,” about how “after 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan”; or “Big River Man,” about how “an overweight, wine-swilling Slovenian world-record-holding endurance swimmer resolves to brave the mighty Amazon”; or “Nollywood Babylon,” about Nigeria’s video-based movie industry.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition:

8. Tom Hardy playing a notoriously violent criminal in the new film from the “Pusher” trilogy’s Nicolas Winding Refn? Look righteously nutty — here’s the UK site. “The Clone Returns,” a Japanese feature about an “astronaut who dies during a mission is subsequently resurrected as a clone and returns to his childhood home,” and a “An Education,” a Nick Hornby-scripted drama directed by “Italian for Beginners”‘ Lone Scherfig seem promising.

Premieres:

9. “500 Days of Summer” wins the prize for most Sundance movie summation: “When an unlucky greeting card copywriter is dumped by his girlfriend, the hopeless romantic shifts back and forth through various periods of their 500 days ‘together’ in hopes of figuring out where things went wrong.”

10. Antoine Fuqua?

12. The fact that “I Love You Philip Morris” is written/directed by the screenwriters of “Bad Santa” makes me think it might actually be as good as I’d like it to be. Meanwhile, is “Manure” a return to form for the Polish brothers? The stills look marvelously “Northfork”esque.

13. Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal play brothers in “Rudo and Cursi,” the feature debut of Alfonso Cuarón;s brother Carlos, who co-wrote the screenplay for “Y tu mamá también.” So they’re probably not going to make out this time.

Spectrum:

14. Bobcat Goldthwait, yay!

Midnight:

15. There’s something a little off about putting Lil’ Wayne doc “The Carter” in this line-up alongside a Nazi-zombie movie (“Dead Snow”) and a vampire baby one (“Grace”), no?

Early themespotting:

“Big River Man” + “Against the Current” = Distance swimming.

“Boy Interrupted” + “El General” + “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” + “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” = Docs about someone in the filmmaker’s family.

“Moon” + “The Clone Returns” = Sad astronauts.

“Shrink” + “Helen” + “Once More with Feeling” = Sad psychiatrists.

“211:Anna” + “Reporter” + “Burma VJ” = Heroic journalists.

“The Reckoning” + “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” + “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” + “The Anarchist’s Wife” = Heroic lawyers.

[Photo: “Manure,” Prohibition Pictures, 2009]

+ 2009 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FILMS IN COMPETITION (Sundance.org)
+ 2009 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FILMS IN THE PREMIERES, SPECTRUM, NEW FRONTIER AND PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT SECTIONS (Sundance.org)

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.